Climate, Environment, and Life Sciences

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Understanding how cities, ecosystems, and agriculture are affected by global change, and engineering sustainable solutions to improve lives of future generations.

Tackling the growing challenges of our changing environment

Our work focuses on understanding how a growing population, urbanization and climate change are affecting cities, ecosystems and human health.

The challenges facing the planet today are larger, more complex and more interconnected than ever before. As the world population increases combined with rising temperatures, sea-levels, and unhealthy air and water, engineers and scientists face a multitude of issues on how to sustain the health of our natural environment.

Researchers in CEE work to understand the physical, chemical and biological processes occurring in the built and natural environment to provide sustainable solutions for a cleaner earth, in order to improve lives of future generations.

The central focus of our research is to understand the processes that affect our air, water, land, and climate.  Our research encompasses all components of environmental science and engineering: from a fundamental understanding, to assessment of impacts, to the development of improved processes and technologies to develop sustainable solutions for a healthier planet.

Key areas include:

  • Community ecology
  • Microbiomes
  • Ecological networks
  • Atmosphere & air quality, e.g.: Air pollution impacts on global crop yields; Regional hotspots where climate change may severely impact human habitability
  • Energy, e.g.: Atmospheric boundary layer flow and wind energy, Hydraulic Fracturing and Fracture Flow in Rocks; Reservoir-on-a-chip; Simulating Fracture in Geomaterials
  • Material sourcing, e.g. Transforming animal waste to biobinder and bio-petroleum
  • Coastal resilience, e.g.: Green Infrastructure: Vegetated Landscapes and Coastal Protection
  • Population growth (e.g. urbanization)
  • Climate, e.g.: Modeling the Aerosols in our Atmosphere
  • Oceans, e.g. The global genetic repertoire of Prochlorococcus
  • Global health, e.g. From regional pulse vaccination to global disease eradication

Example of class offerings

Global Change Science

Introduces the basic relevant principles and concepts in atmospheric physics, climate dynamics, biogeochemistry, and water and energy balance at the land-atmosphere boundary, through an examination of two current problems in the global environment: carbon dioxide and global warming; and tropical deforestation and regional climate. An introduction to global environmental problems for students in basic sciences and engineering.

Air Pollution and Atmospheric Chemistry

Provides a working knowledge of basic air quality issues, with emphasis on a multidisciplinary approach to investigating the sources and effects of pollution. Topics include emission sources; atmospheric chemistry and removal processes; meteorological phenomena and their impact on pollution transport at local to global scales; air pollution control technologies; health effects; and regulatory standards. Discusses regional and global issues, such as acid rain, ozone depletion and air quality connections to climate change.

 

Atmospheric Boundary Layer Flows and Wind Energy

Introduction into the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) and turbulence, which is critical to applications including renewable energy generation, pollution, weather and climate modeling, and more. Topics include the origins of wind in the atmosphere, an introduction to turbulent flows, the atmosphere and the diurnal cycle; momentum balance, scaling, and TKE; buoyancy, stability, and Coriolis forces; Ekman layer and RANS modeling; experimental methods; data analysis of ABL field measurements; and large eddy simulation.

 

Resilience of Living Systems to Environmental Change

Takes a multi-scale approach to understanding responses of living systems to perturbation. Mechanisms of stress sensing and response in plants, microbes, and animals from the level of individual cells to whole organisms. Emergent properties of organismal stress and population and community scale. Resilience of ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles to altered environmental conditions. Considers both natural and managed systems, focusing primarily on the terrestrial environment.

 

Atmospheric Chemistry

Provides a detailed overview of the chemical transformations that control the abundances of key trace species in the Earth’s atmosphere. Emphasizes the effects of human activity on air quality and climate. Topics include photochemistry, kinetics, and thermodynamics important to the chemistry of the atmosphere; stratospheric ozone depletion; oxidation chemistry of the troposphere; photochemical smog; aerosol chemistry; and sources and sinks of greenhouse gases and other climate forcers.

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